Sunday, April 17, 2016

Time to Play B-sides.

As my favorite man who wears high heels says, "The time is now. That's all you need to know."

The pre-game at Rogue Gentlemen involved J. Mourat Rose, a lamb Philly steak, fried chicken skins and three luscious cheddar chive biscuits with apple butter that my companion had professed to be uninterested in until I ordered them.

Three warm, seductive biscuits later, I was given my due for ordering such deliciousness while a couple at the other end of the bar acttually lifted off of their stools to ogle our repast, eventually ordering the same.

The main event was TheatreLAB's performance of "Venus in Fur," easily one of the most fascinating two-person plays I've ever seen and not because it's about sado-masochism, either.

What, doesn't everyone have a dog collar?

All the cool kids were there for opening night, and it's always pleasant to begin by hearing my name called and then, "Hey, gorgeous" to get my attention. It was the walker/play-lover I'd not seen recently, finally getting out of his house.

He'd picked an outstanding choice for his return to play-going.

Watching Maggie Roop as Vanda and James Ricks as Thomas was an exquisite 90 minutes of thrust and parry with the two actors playing an actor and director ("Young women can't even play feminine anymore!") who are bringing to life a play about a masochist looking for his dominatrix.

You know, that old chestnut.

If it sounds like a hall of mirrors, that''s exactly what playwright David Ives seems to have been going for and it's brilliant stuff onstage.

I'm not convinced that all women want to control men, as the play's Thomas insists, but where I did agree was that nobody has out-sized emotions anymore (and we're the worse for it, I might add).

We're all explicable. What we're not is extricable.

Assured direction by Matt Shofner and terrific performances by both actors ensured that everyone who walked out of there knew they'd seen something they wouldn't soon forget.

Just as I was finding Maggie's Vanda character simplistic and a bit too broad with the comedic bits ("Remind me...?" when the Austro-Hungarian empire is mentioned), she slid seamlessly into the role of the woman being groomed to be Thomas' dominatrix, totally commanding the stage and showing what she was made of, both challenging him and seducing him.

And what man doesn't like that? She even arrived with period costumes for both of them, showing a  level of planning that speaks to those of us who tend to overthink everything.

James - still memorable as a blond Hamlet in the 2012 Bootleg Shakespeare production - "To be or...Line!" - was born to play the role of Thomas, the smugly arrogant director whose life has already settled into mediocrity without him noticing, but who can't help but be affected by the crass and sometimes contemptuous actress who's showed up in his office to read for the part in his play.

TheatreLAB never disappoints, but the combination of the brilliance in choosing this steamy play and casting and directing it to perfection already has me emailing friends to nudge them to get tickets.

Don't say I didn't tell you so, kids. You wouldn't want to miss the sound of zippering when a roomful of people hold their collective breath in complete silence as a pair of thigh-high black patent leather boots are zipped up two fabulous legs. Truth.

We barely made it to Comfort before the intricacies of the post-play discussion began, followed by long-delayed girl talk ("That old chestnut?" she asks, cracking me up with her dismissive take on my life) until we are the final customers and only the bartender is left to say goodnight.

Cue next day.

Talk about unlikely, I have been to Lowe's three times in 24 hours and that's a lifetime achievement record. Also, I was spending someone else's money, which makes it a whole lot more fun.

Over the course of the day together, I am mistaken repeatedly for my companion's wife, a highly unlikely occurrence given that he pitches for the other team, but he's more delighted with the mistaken identity every time it happens. Meanwhile, he digs, plants, spreads and sweeps as if I'd given him a Honey-Do list.

I only hope my garden represents me as well as the painting the jazz drummer created for me does. It certainly smells wonderful (the garden, not eh painting).

Tonight's Leap of Faith party for the upcoming Bijou Film Center was a thank-you to all of us who'd donated to get the arthouse theater off the ground (and hopefully in my neighborhood) as founding members.

Number 178, right here, folks.

After a full day outside working, even a hoppy-smelling brewery was a welcome change, as were the sounds of DJ Carlito spinning records, along with plenty of familiar faces and music lovers.

It was especially delightful to run into one half of the Blood Brothers, visiting from NYC and, I was happy to hear, cobbling together a satisfying life producing bands, delivering his wife's food to movie sets and playing music.

Hey, whatever combination works, that's my life philosophy.

Grass Panther - two guys who sound like a whole lot more- rocked everybody's faces off (a pink-clad five year old danced like a punk veteran, unable to stop herself), addressing the song "Stinky Pants" to the men in the room ("We'll have a group session later about that," singer/guitarist Michael says) and closing by saying, "Thanks for taking the journey with us."

No, thank you for a killer post-punk set. Just what I needed.

During the break, all the founding members were gathered for a group photo complete with Groucho Marx glasses/noses on each of us, destined to be come a classic...or Facebook blackmail

The highlight of the evening may have been when one of the Bijou's founders, James, got up to explain about the Bijou and what it will be. A 100-seat art house. A cafe and bar, with beers such as Hardywood on tap.

"We'll also serve wine for people like Karen who don't like beer," James announces from the stage, a stage in a brewery.

A guy near me leans over and whispers, "Did you see people step away from you when he said that?" Um, no, but I don't doubt it.

Despite that, when he'd said it, a DJ's wife had given me a thumbs up of support from across the floor. Later, a woman stopped me to tell me she didn't drink beer either.

The difference? She didn't get called out for it in front of a roomful of beer lovers.

But isn't that almost the point? Why does a non-beer drinker go to Hardywood? Because she gets to see terrific bands and support an artsy cause that's near and dear to her heart. Even better, the Bijou not only met its goal of 360 founding members, it beat it.

Turns out we are the movie town some of us thought we were.

Call it one of those perfect synchronicity moments when the Green Hearts took the stage, because off to the side was a guy I hadn't seen in years, but whose restaurant was the first place I ever saw the Green Hearts.

It's practically poetic, right?

The band got bonus points for doing several covers of songs used in movies, including a Cheap Trick song and Blue Oyster Cult's "Burnin' for You," a song I probably haven't heard this millennium.

I totally dug it, not gonna lie.

With their dark suits and energetic pop, they were well-suited to reminding the crowd that this was a party and at parties, people dance. Dancing in place, I was completely caught off guard when a founder and all-around great guy asked me to dance, inadvertently saying no out of sheer surprise instead of just jumping in.

What, a woman who loves to dance declining an invitation?

Perhaps we should have a group session about that later. The time is now and that should be enough.

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